Hundreds of schoolgirls in Iran have fallen ill in recent months, and many parents believe they were poisoned. The wave of suspected poison attacks has led to protests across the country, with some blaming hard-line Islamist groups known to be opposed to girls’ education for the vile attacks.
On Saturday, parents gathered outside schools in the Iranian capital of Tehran and other cities to take children home, while other students were taken to hospitals by ambulance or bus.
The poisoning outbreak came at a critical time for Iran’s clerical rulers, who have faced months of anti-government protests sparked by the death of a young Kurdish woman in September, after she was arrested by the country’s morality police for violating Islamic dress code and died in custody.
Iranian officials believe that the girls have been targeted by enemies of Tehran, while the country’s health minister said that the girls suffered “mild poison” attacks.
Iran’s interior minister said investigators had found “suspicious samples” and were studying them to identify the causes of the students’ illness.
The UN Human Rights Office in Geneva called for a transparent investigation into the suspected attacks, and countries including Germany and the United States have voiced concern. Iran has rejected what it views as foreign meddling and “hasty reactions” and said it was investigating the causes of the incidents.
Experts have spoken about the difficulties in investigating the situation in Iran, and some have pointed out that the incidents are “remarkably similar” to dozens of incidents at schools in Afghanistan since 2009.
Schoolgirls have been active in the anti-government protests that began in September, with some removing their mandatory headscarves in classrooms, tearing up pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and calling for his death.